To All My Post-Traumatic, Post-Election Friends
For the past year, politically interested Christians have blogged, tweeted, and preached as if the sky was about to fall. The Christian ‘left’ has dreaded the possibility of the Republican candidate becoming President. Similarly, the Christian ‘right’ has dreaded the same in the opposite direction. With a whopping 52% of adults reporting high levels of stress and anxiety because of the election (according to an American Psychological Association survey), the children are also dealing with unprecedented stress.
In a K-12 survey run by my friend and school headmaster Nate Morrow, students answered the following questions, in the following ways:
Question 1: How is the ‘adult reaction’ to the election making you feel? The answers included words such as worried, scared, confused, fearful, stressed, nervous, angry, frustrated, crazy, and embarrassed.
Question 2: How do you feel personally about the election? Here are some of those answers:
- “Whoever wins is who God believes should lead our country, but that makes me worry about God.”
- “I’m nervous because I don’t want my friendships to split over this.”
- “Our generation is in trouble.”
- “The people running for office haven’t been a good example for us.”
- “Who people vote for seems to change how people feel about each other.”
- “The world is coming to an end and we are doomed either way.”
From youth to old age, legitimate concerns about both candidates at some point gave way to panic. And yet, the most repeated command in Scripture remains, “Do not fear.” God knows how easily we fall into fear. He graciously steadies us and reminds us that He is with us—“Fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10). Yet, despite our Father’s reassurance, we often allow ourselves to be discipled, shaped, and driven by our fears instead of by his promises.
Hostile governments have always been part of Christian life in the world. The Egyptian Pharaoh enslaved Israel and put impossible demands on his subjects. Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar tossed Daniel in a lion’s den, and Daniel’s three faithful friends into a furnace of fire. Herod committed mass infanticide throughout his kingdom. Pontius Pilate, wanting to please the crowds, hung Jesus to die on wooden beams. The Roman Caesar, agitated by the influence of early Christianity, sentenced eleven of the twelve disciples to death to make them martyrs. The one remaining disciple, John, was left to die of old age as an exiled enemy of the state, on the island of Patmos.
And yet, as we look back in time, we know about Nebuchadnezzar, Herod the Great and Pontius Pilate only because we know the story of Jesus. Since then, their kingdoms have all toppled and fallen harder than Humpty Dumpty. All the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men couldn’t put them together again. But King Jesus…the one who ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate’…his is a Kingdom that continues on, and of the increase of his government there will be no end.
The evidence for this? Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, Pilate and Caesar are all deceased, and Jesus is risen. Babylon and Rome are long-fallen empires, and the church of Jesus Christ continues to move forward. We name our sons after Peter, Paul, and John…while their oppressive government rulers are all but forgotten.
Jesus didn’t come to take office or to take sides.
He came to take over.
Bishop N.T. Wright once said that a politician’s revolution ends when s/he falls out of public favor or dies. But when Jesus fell out of public favor and died, it began his revolution. Ever since his revolution began, the blood-bought, Spirit-filled citizens of his Kingdom have been appointed, commissioned, and sent out into a weary, soul-sick world to continue his revolution.
History shows when Christians posture themselves as a power-seeking moral majority, the societal impact of Christianity is weakened. The moral majority project, in virtually every instance it has been attempted througout history, has become a failed project. However, when Christians direct their energy, resources, and imagination toward serving the world as a love-driven, life-giving minority, the Jesus movement becomes virtually impossible to stop.
This was evident in 4th century Rome. At this time, Emperor Julian sought to exterminate Christians from Rome because of their growing influence, and he bemoaned that no matter how hard he tried, he could not stop the momentum and impact of the Christian sect. The Emperor recognized that this unstoppable momentum was due to the fact that Christians took better care of Rome than Rome did. To Julian’s dismay, the citizens of Jesus’ Kingdom became the most life-giving citizens of earthly kingdoms, not in spite of their heavenly citizenship but because of it.
When the plague overtook Rome, people sent their sick family members out into the streets. As the streets filled with Rome’s dying and contagious sick, Christians took to the streets tending to the sick with love and welcoming them into their own homes for practical care, human touch, and a chance to die with dignity. In this valiant love initiative, some Christians contracted the plague themselves and died. Because King Jesus had loved them and given his life for them, they were prepared to do the same for others.
In addition to caring for Rome’s sick and suffering citizens, Christians also radically cared for its women. In Rome, women were treated as objects to be used instead of image-bearers to be loved. Roman widows were left to die, and fathers who wanted boys tossed their baby girls into the trash. In response, Christians elevated women to positions of leadership, valued the female voice, took the Roman widows into their own homes, rescued and adopted many of Rome’s unwanted girls.
In this society plagued by sexual deviancy and abuse, Christians gave freely of their money, their time, their homes and their lives. As a result, by the third century A.D. the social fabric of Rome had become transformed, and most of Rome had become Christian.
This is how Jesus’ Kingdom operates in a world whose earthly kingdoms over-promise and under-deliver. Jesus, the King of heaven and earth, aims to take over—ruling the world with truth and grace and making the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love. He takes over by making his blessings flow, far as the curse is found. And he aims to do this work chiefly through us, his beloved ones, as he fills us with his Spirit, strengthens us with his grace, and sends us into a broken, confused world to love it all to life.
In our time of fear and political unrest, have we forgotten this vision? Have we forgotten how we ourselves have been healed by love through the kiss of our King, who through that same kiss took the plague of sin off of us and received us as his Bride? Have we forgotten that it is now our great privilege to go into the world as carriers of his love, bringing comfort to confused, hurting, and damaged souls with the love we first received from Jesus?
C.S. Lewis said that as we read history, we find that the people who did the most for their present world also thought the most of the next. Because they were heavenly minded, they were more earthly good. So many examples prove this to be true.
From deep Christian conviction, William Wilberforce made the world better by fighting for the abolition of slaves, George Mueller for the care of orphans, Dr. King for civil rights, and C. Everett Koop for an HIV cure. Christians have also contributed great music, from Handel to Johnny Cash to Bono, and a hat tip to Nashville’s Carrie Underwood. There are also world-renowned scientists motivated by the love of Jesus, from Pascal to Copernicus to Galileo to Francis Collins. And healthcare, with all those hospitals named after a Saint. And remember the pastor/educators who established Ivy League universities, including Jonathan Edwards who was Princeton’s first President.
We must also not forget or underestimate the billions of ordinary, less visible ways that Jesus’ people have touched the world with his kiss. Honest workers and charitable bosses, loyal friends and kind-hearted mothers, intentional neighbors and quiet prayer warriors, verbal encouragers and generous, sacrificial givers, husbands and wives who hold hands to the end while teaching their children the ways and wonders of Jesus—all occupy a significant, life-giving place in the royal priesthood and holy nation that is the Kingdom of God.
And let’s not forget Jesus, whose revolution started in a manger with teenage refugee parents, continued with a loss of religious freedom on a cross atop a Roman trash heap, and culminated in resurrection and a Government and Kingdom that will always increase and that will know no end.
Indeed, our Jesus did not come to take office or to take sides.
He came to take over. Therefore…
…if you are despairing over the outcome of this election, pause and exhale. We only need, and we already have, one Messiah. And he did not lose this election.
…and if you are breathing a deep sigh of relief over the outcome of this election, keep perspective. We only need, and we already have, one Messiah. And he did not win this election.
He is still on his throne.
This essay is an adapted excerpt from Scott’s latest book, Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation and Fear. Used by permission of Tyndale House.
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